As anticipation mounts regarding next year’s return of the Tall Ships to Waterford, the possibility of a stand-off with our near neighbours in New Ross is growing. It has emerged that the JFK Trust in New Ross will probably refuse to allow the ‘Dunbrody’ famine ship to participate in the event and, on top of that, it wants some of the visiting ships to visit New Ross.

When the Tall Ships visited Waterford in 2005, the ‘Dunbrody’ received massive, world-wide publicity as it proudly led the flotilla of Tall Ships downriver from the city and out into Waterford harbour. The problem for Waterford, this time around, is that the ‘Dunbrody’ is so famous it is a big tourist attraction in New Ross and its owners don’t want it to leave port for the Tall Ships Race or anything else for that matter.

The chief executive officer of the JFK Trust, Sean Reidy, said last week he had to be ‘realistic and pragmatic’ about the possibility of the vessel ever again setting sail from its dock in New Ross.

“While one should never say never, the ship is in New Ross as part of a major tourist attraction and it does not make sense to take it away for long periods of time. It’s like saying that Kilkenny Castle wouldn’t be there for visitors part of the time”, said Mr Reidy.

“The ship has sailed but the main purpose from day one was that it would be a visitor attraction. When you look at a cost benefit analysis, she is of more benefit to the town by staying in place”, he declared.

However, Mr Reidy believes New Ross should share in the benefits of the Tall Ships visit. He pointed out that a further €2.5m in tourist exhibitions would be in place at the ‘Dunbrody’s’ quayside berth by the time the Tall Ships arrive next year and he would like to see at least three of the vessels sail into New Ross. The JFK Trust CEO made his comments in an article by Elaine Furlong that appeared in The New Ross Standard newspaper last week.

Somebody more cynical and quicker to shoot from the hip than myself might have a comment to make but, for the time being, I’ll keep my powder dry.

Over zealous Gaelgoiri?

Even though I have only a smathering of the language myself, I’ve always regretted not doing enough to be at least conversationally fluent in Irish and I am a great supporter of Irish language programmes on television. But, sometimes, I think certain people become over zealous about Irish and their attitude sends out negative vibes to the general public at large who are the taxpayers coughing up for most of the bills that the protection and promotion of the language generates.

For instance, so far, there has been no resolution in a row between a Portlaoise Gaelscoil and the town’s parish priest over the celebration of Sacraments in Irish. It seems the Board of Management of the Gaelscoil wants the First Communion Service for their children to be celebrated in entirely Irish but the parish priest, Monsignor John Byrne, insists that the 40-minute, multi-school ceremony will be in English with a liberal use of Irish that can be understood by all attending the Mass.

Monsignor Byrne said that when he invited the parents of the Gaelscoil to enroll their children for the Sacraments of Penance and First Communion it was clearly stated that the ceremonies for last year would be the model for this year and there were no objections. However, since then, a campaign had commenced to have the status quo changed so that the entire ceremony would be ‘as Gaeilge’.

Expressing the hope that a resolution would be found, the parish priest said he was concerned for the children who were caught in the middle of the argument. He pointed out that the First Communion Ceremony was not an event relating to any one school. It was a family and parish celebration and not an occasion for a particular school to display its talents or to advance its ethos.

Not every parent in the Gaelscoil believes the service should be totally in Irish and the situation is said to have created bad feeling between some families and the board of management. Perhaps we don’t have all the facts of the case but, on the face of it, it does seem that the Gaelscoil board of management is being bloody minded about a situation it was never going to win.

As time goes by

Back in the 1970s, a group of 40-something friends decided that they should organise a good night out and promised each other that, from then on, no matter what part of the country or the world they were living in, they would all meet up every ten years for a similar celebration.

There was much argument about where they should have their first night out. They all had different ideas about food and drink and where was good and where was not too good.

The only thing they had in common was that they all fancied the girls who worked behind the bar in the Tower Hotel. Apart from their natural good looks and long legs, most wore low-cut blouses and short skirts and so the red-blooded males agreed that they would have their night out there.

Ten years later, in their 50s, the group met again and, once again, they decided to hold their reunion in the Tower Hotel this time agreeing that the food there was very good and the wine selection excellent. As on previous occasions, a long session of singing and talking into the early hours was enjoyed by everybody in the group.

Another ten years passed and, sadly, there were a couple of absentees through illness but they decided to return to the Tower Hotel because they could eat there in peace and quiet and there was no loud music.

The Millennium saw the lads into their 70s and, predicable as ever, they agreed to give their custom to the Tower Hotel because the lobby was very wheelchair friendly, the beds were comfortable and the elevators were very convenient to use.

Last Saturday night, the group of 80-something friends tottered into Waterford again from all over the world and, after some discussion, they decided that they should try out the Tower Hotel seeing as they had never been there before.